What Now?

I don’t know who I was with or how we got on the topic but ashtrays came up. A friend remembered that when she was a child, when company was coming, it was her job to polish the silver ashtrays.

The conversation reminded me that I have one of my grandmother’s ashtrays. It is heavy enough to do some real damage should I drop it on my toe. It doesn’t particularly inspire fond memories, or any memories for that matter.  Like most in their generation, my grandparents were big smokers so I assume this ashtray got plenty of use. No longer. It’s been in the basement for years taking up a small square of space.

Have any of you repurposed an ashtray? How? I can’t exactly imagine using it as a serving dish. I already have a catch-all for the car keys and at this stage of the game I don’t dare change the routine. I could float a single flower blossom in it.  That could look chic. Or maybe a pillar candle? That would have some resonance of its original purpose. I’m not going to take up smoking.  Stay tuned.

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Who Am I?

I took Olivia and Leah into the Hall of Mirrors at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.  Lots of fun, uncertainty, confusion, a bump or two on the nose and ultimately a deeply human experience. We stumbled our way through the mirror matrix, losing and finding our way step by step. Everyone we met was laughing and as confused as we were. “If we see ourselves,” I told the girls, “we have to go another way.”

Little did I realize how profound a metaphor that would be. At one point, I came face to face with a fellow maze traveler. She was laughing and smiling.  So was I.  She was disoriented. So was I. Without thinking I exclaimed, “Are you me? Am I you?” I felt as if I had ceased to exist knowing that her face was reflecting to me exactly how I felt. It was quite surreal to feel that I’d lost my sense of self only to regain in the face of another. Eventually the girls and I found our way out.

The memory of meeting that woman, and my own confusion over where I ended and she began, stays with me.  Isn’t that the crux of so much philosophical musing?  Hillel’s do-unto-others admonishment? The Holy Grail of pursuing peace and loving our neighbors as ourselves? How do we see the other in ourself? How do we see ourself in the other?

Perhaps the world is nothing but a grand hall of mirrors. We stumble along trying to find the way out of our confusion. We bump up against our own foibles, limitations, pain and missteps again and again until we (hopefully) take a new path. There is surely less laughter in such halls.

What if we could cultivate that sense of fuzzy boundaries? What if we could meet eye to eye, forgetting ourselves while recognizing in the other a similar sense of disorientation? What if we observed ourselves convinced we are on the right path, only to crash into our own strictures again and again?

I have no ready answers. This drawer in the curio cabinet is named Questions, after all.

 

 

photo by Debra Darvick

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Do You FaceTime?

Every now and then a word or phrase snags my attention and its meaning completly changes. “Do you FaceTime with your granddaughters?” someone asked me recently.  After answering her, my mind went back to her question because what I heard was, “Do you face time with your granddaughters?” The answer to that is a resounding, “Yes, as never before.”

I have been facing time a lot, lately. Maybe it’s the accumulating creaks in my bones and creases across my forehead and upper lip. Dear friends are ill with wrenching diagnoses. My father, God bless him, is still alive and doing well. Few daughters are so fortunate at this stage of the game. Covid has done a big number on us all. The lucky ones have lost only time, not life or loved ones.

Despite inheriting my parents’ age-blurring genes, Olivia and Leah have placed me solidly farther along my own personal timeline. I am a grandmother. I sense my wisdom deepening and with it the need, and perhaps the responsibiilty, to share it, judiciously but share it nonetheless. It is hardwon. Life continues to provide opportunities to deepen it further.

Facing time these days means that I am adored by two beautiful little girls for whom there is no past or future. There is only the delicious present given over to dancing, singing, art making, sliding, swinging, reading, cuddling. As they grow older, the ings will expand: sleep-overing, traveling, asking and answering hard questions.

Yes, I face time a lot these days; with gratitude for what is and has been and with hope and prayers for might yet be.

 

photo credit: by France 1978 ShareALike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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